Sometimes rants build up and I have to share them or THIS happens:
I forever have to defend my hardcore fangirling to the real world. Yet a Facebook message from a fellow pop culture enthusiast reminded me of what an impact fiction can have on our lives.
Game of Thrones has won a lot of awards during its run, but possibly the coolest is the “Visionary Award” celebrating its varied depictions of characters with disabilities. Beyond the blood and dragons and boiled leather, Game of Thrones is a revolutionary show in its representations of people with disabilities.
David Radcliff, if the Writers With Disabilities Committee of the Writers Guild of America, West said:
“Game of Thrones is a natural fit for this recognition. Since its earliest episodes, your gripping series has introduced us to a paralyzed boy with a supernatural gift, has endeared us to a Little Person defined not by his height but by his wit, and has regularly mined the lives of “cripples, bastards and broken things” to celebrate their strengths and complexities. In fact, it is a fantastic credit to Martin’s work that Game of Thrones is not commonly thought of a show that “deals with” disability – it is something even better: a show that embraces the reality that no one is easily definable”.
One of the best parts of Game of Thrones is how it portrays all types of people, broken and whole, constantly evolving, from the physically gifted to those with disabilities.
My penfriend suffers juvenile arthritis and is bedridden at age 30. It brings her so much poignant joy that she can see herself in Tyrion.
In a recent letter she said:
“In the same way that Arya is your spirit animal, I think Tyrion is mine, and I enjoyed him more than ever in A Dance with Dragons. He made me laugh out loud several times, and I think I have a similarly wry, ironic sense of humour to his. I found his new cynicism after what he found out about Tysha and his subsequent murder of his father to be very intriguing. That, at least, is not something I can relate to personally, thank goodness, but I do have a certain cynicism about the world these days that I didn’t have when I was younger.
Of course, I also relate to his bookishness and love of learning. But just like you identified Arya as symbolising the “survivor” trope, I can see Tyrion representing one of the key literary tropes, that of “the other”, or, to a more extreme extent, “the monstrous”, due to his dwarfism and the many consequences that has had for his life.
Having a physical disability myself, I can readily identify with pretty much all of that part of his story – the way in which society views him as “different” and stereotypes him to such an extent that that is just as restrictive as his physical limitations themselves. And the more hidden consequence, of course, is the way that makes him see himself – all the shame and self-loathing and fatalism in his character are things that I can empathise with. And apart from that, I love the path he took in the fifth book, meeting Prince Aegon, taking Penny under his wing, and all the time moving towards Daenerys. Even though he ended up in the enemy camp, I hope he somehow manages to become one of her coterie of advisors. I’ve always wondered who, ultimately, would ride the other two dragons (since Dany herself will obviously ride Drogon). Knowing Tyrion’s lifelong fascination with dragons and Arya’s reverence for the legendary Nymeria, it would be a dream come true for me to see the two of them become the other two dragon riders!”
We can see ourselves in characters and through their journeys achieve things that are not possible with the limitations of our own world.
And that is why I think fangirling is so important.